Here’s an excerpt from the third volume of the military science fiction trilogy I’m getting ready to publish. I put up a teaser from the first book a few months ago, followed by a teaser from the second book. Here’s an earlier version of the cover for the first volume, which will be further modified before publication.
I’ve been hard at work on the series for five months now. God willing, the first volume will be published in less than a month from today, and the next two volumes will appear at approximately 30-day intervals. To keep your interest, here’s a teaser excerpt from the third volume.
Captain Pernaska sat on the hard, narrow bunk in his cell, closed his eyes, and prepared himself for death.
Remember our Patriarch, he thought forcefully to himself. He dared not speak aloud, because the enemy would overhear him through the microphones they were sure to have hidden in this confined space. Even in his dotage, afflicted with disease, he went on a combat operation, to prove to our people that he would never ask them to risk anything he was not prepared to risk himself. What an example he set! He died in action, and inspired all of us to avenge his loss in the blood of our enemies. Today is my chance to do that. It is not a tragedy – it is an honor! May I prove worthy of it, and may my death be worthy of his!
He had to act before his captors could transfer him to an interrogation facility. He knew all the Brotherhood’s plans for the next few years, and all about their ships. Most important of all, he knew the coordinates in space of their secret base, information entrusted only to the Commanding Officers, Executive Officers and navigators of their vessels. Hawkwood absolutely could not, under any circumstances, be allowed to learn that secret… so he had to die. It was as simple as that.
His kidnappers had been almost unbelievably, even criminally inept in giving him access to the ship’s entertainment library, via the screen on the bulkhead beyond the bars. He was still puzzled by that. Hawkwood had proved to be a formidable opponent in space combat, worthy of the Brotherhood’s steel. Why had they made such an elementary error? Perhaps this ship was the exception that proved the rule of their efficiency and effectiveness, the weakest link in their chain. Please God, its crew was not alone in being so sloppy! He had taken advantage of the screen and its voice-activated controls – which his oh-so-stupid captors had obligingly demonstrated to him – to access the courier vessel’s layout, provided as part of the entertainment library so that passengers could find their way around if necessary. He knew where the brig was in relation to the rest of the ship, and where the airtight bulkheads and doors were. They would separate the vessel into pressure-tight compartments in an emergency.
In Galactic Standard English, he called, “Display orbital approach.” The screen obediently flickered, then resolved into a radar-like display of the planet ahead. Several spaceships’ orbits were outlined in yellow, while this ship’s approach to its own assigned trajectory was shown in red. The vessel looked to be no more than a few minutes away from entering orbit. He took a deep breath. It was almost time.
He’d asked for a couple of pairs of utility overalls, to wear instead of his Captain’s uniform. He’d sent that to the ship’s laundry, to be restored to pristine freshness in readiness for this day. Now he took off the overalls, folded them, laid them on his freshly-made bed, and put on his uniform. He tied the old-fashioned laces, critically observing his reflection in the shoes that he’d polished to mirror brightness, just like when he’d been a cadet officer all those years ago. He settled the jacket over his shoulders, and buttoned it. He had no mirror in which to examine his appearance, but knew it would be as close to perfect as possible under the circumstances.
He heard approaching footsteps, and smothered a savage grin with his hand. He’d been on his best behavior with the spacers who brought him meals twice a day, and escorted him to and from the shower twice a week. He’d tried very hard to give the impression of a man resigned to captivity, wanting no trouble, willing even to grovel before his guards in order to avoid conflict. He knew some of them regarded him with scornful contempt as a result… which was exactly how he had hoped they would react. Soon, very soon now, they would learn their error.
He reached beneath the mattress on the unused top bunk, and withdrew the pen that one of the spacers had indulgently lent him ‘to write a letter to my wife’. When he’d handed over the letter – addressed to a non-existent woman, and filled with meaningless platitudes – it had been to a different spacer, who hadn’t asked for the pen to be returned. He had taken full advantage of that mistake. It had given him a weapon. Now he palmed it, with the point up his sleeve, as two spacers entered the brig compartment. Both were armed with pulsers, but only one had his weapon in his hand. The other’s was in the flap holster at his waist, which was unfastened, allowing the butt to peep out from beneath the synthleather cover.
“All right,” the armed spacer said in Galactic Standard English, using what he presumably intended to be a commanding tone of voice. “Stand back from the door while we unlock it, then we’ll cuff your hands and take you to the docking bay.”
“Yes, of course,” the captain answered subserviently, stepping back, half-turning away, hunching his shoulders as if to avoid a blow. The two spacers exchanged contemptuous glances, then the second, empty-handed man unlocked the barred door and swung it open.
“Turn around and put your hands behind your back,” he ordered as he stepped inside.
The captain made as if to obey, but instead of stopping with his back to the spacer, he continued turning, all the way around, moving suddenly faster. Before the startled man could react, he reached out with his left hand, grabbed his collar, and pulled him powerfully forward as he thrust with the pen in his right hand. Its point speared deep into the spacer’s left eye. He screamed in agony.
“WHAT TH–” the second spacer began to yell, eyes bulging in surprise – but Pernaska did not stop. His left hand, still grasping the injured man’s collar, twisted him half-around while his now-empty right hand snaked out and grasped the butt of the holstered weapon, drawing it and releasing its safety catch. He violently shoved his writhing victim back towards the bars as the other spacer raised his pulser, blocking his line of sight, forcing him to step to one side to aim at their erstwhile captive. By the time he’d done so, the captain had acquired a rock-steady two-handed firing grip on his own pulser. He fired first, three rapid rounds, two into the spacer’s chest, the third at the center of his face as he yelled in pain and shock and began to fold forward over himself. The man dropped his pulser and slumped bonelessly to the deck. Pernaska turned back to the wailing spacer inside his cell and fired one more round into his head, killing him instantly.
He shook his head in a vain attempt to clear his head of the sudden deafness caused by the hypersonic discharge of the pulser’s electromagnetic mechanism. Faintly, through the ringing in his ears, he heard the sudden whooping of the ship’s alarm, followed by the impact of airtight doors slamming shut, reverberating through the vessel’s structure. He grinned savagely. Thank you, you fools! You think you’ve locked me safely away from the bridge. Instead, you’ve locked me in the same section of the hull as all your off-duty watchstanders. They’re my meat now! You may kill me in the end, but not before I make you pay for my life in the blood of your spacers!
He swiftly searched both bodies. Neither carried spare ammunition for their pulsers, but that was of minor importance. He’d used four of the twenty rounds in the first weapon, and there were twenty more in the other – more than enough for what he’d need. He tucked the second weapon into a pocket of his jacket, then called up the vessel’s schematic on the screen again. There were six four-person berthing units for the crew in the forward section of the hull, plus three two-berth units for supervisors and four single cabins for officers. Many of the crew were on duty, but according to the duty schedule he’d carefully memorized earlier, about a third should be in their berthing units. By now they’d have locked their doors, of course, in the vain hope that would protect them from him. He spat contemptuously. They would soon learn otherwise… the last lesson of their lives.
He walked out of the brig, moving slowly and carefully, peering around the corner to make sure than no braver-than-usual spacer had decided to wait in ambush for him. The passage was clear. Grinning almost cheerfully, he moved up to the first sliding door on the port side. It was locked, as he expected. He reached for the keypad set in the bulkhead next to it, and entered the standard merchant vessel emergency access code. It was used on all commercial ships, in accordance with United Planets regulations, so that search-and-rescue teams could enter locked compartments if necessary. Sure enough, the keypad beeped, and the door slid back.
Two spacers inside the compartment screamed in fear as they stared at the black-uniformed figure in the open doorway. Their cries turned to gurgles of agony as he pumped one round into each of their chests. They crumpled to the deck. He walked over, aimed carefully, and put a second round through the head of each man. That’s four, he thought with grim, bitter, vengeful satisfaction.
A voice began yelling over the ship’s speakers, begging, pleading with him to stop. He ignored it as he turned to the door on the starboard side of the passage, and entered the emergency access code once more.
I’m over 50,000 words into the third book, more than half way. The first and second books are complete, and I’m incorporating edits and changes suggested by alpha and beta readers. I’m getting excited about the forthcoming launch. I hope you enjoy the trilogy.